WI staff join community members for a visit to the Smithsonian's new African-American museum. (Lateef Mangum)
WI staff join community members for a visit to the Smithsonian's new African-American museum. (Lateef Mangum)

Each year during the month of February, The Washington Informer, under the auspices of its nonprofit arm, Washington Informer Charities, sponsors its Heritage Tour — exposing the community to educational, informative venues dedicated to the rich, powerful annals and contributions of African-Americans — past and present.

That commitment continued this year on Sunday, Feb. 25 as just under 200 WI supporters including men, women and children of all ages, along with corporate sponsors and WI staff visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture, adding to the already over one million people who have entered its doors since the official opening last fall.

Eager to see the treasures that lay behind the doors of the museum, participants gathered at the Boys and Girls Club at THEARC for a brief program including words of welcome from WI staff and corporate sponsors of the tour.

“Our history often gets lost and this is a great opportunity to remind everyone about our contributions,” said WI Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes.

The Heritage Tour continues to be a community event — with volunteers and local corporations committing time, talent and dollars to make the day both a success and memorable. Now in its seventh year, the Black History Month Heritage Tour has, since its inception, received significant financial support from Pepco.

WI Heritage Tour sponsors (Lateef Mangum)

Pepco Regional President Donna Cooper shared reasons for the company’s consistent support.

“We view ourselves as a part of the community we serve and consider the Washington Informer to be a critical vehicle for providing information to the community,” Cooper said.

Ron Burke, director of advertising and marketing for The Informer, highlighted three reasons that Rolark Barnes, WI senior management and the Charities Board of Directors established the now annual and highly-anticipated event.

“We started this event seven years ago to facilitate the following: keep our community connected to their heritage and culture; provide networking possibilities for our attendees; and provide a way for organizations that do business in our community to engage the people with whom they serve while possibly cultivating new business opportunities,” Burke said.

“We couldn’t continue to provide such an informational and fun experience each year without the support of our sponsors — we’re both blessed and humbled to have them partner with us,” he said.

Bank of America’s Derrick Perkins, senior vice president and senior relationship manager for community lending, returned for his second consecutive year of attending the pre-tour program.

“We have been providing grants to other local groups for several years with a significant portion of our support aimed at those east of the river and were looking for more opportunities to make connections,” Perkins said. “Connecting with the Washington Informer has been a tremendous way to illustrate our commitment to those who live and work in Wards 7 and 8.”

Continuing a tradition established four years ago, Greater Mt. Calvary Holy Church in Northeast once again sent a group of over 20 boys, all members of a mentoring program, The Sons Ministry, headed by Grant Duhart.

His enthusiasm as well as that of the young men could not be ignored while they and other adult mentors toured the museum.

“This gives them a good sense and knowledge of their history,” Duhart said. “We’ve found that some parents simply do not spend enough quality time with their children — we believe in the philosophy of reach one, teach one. Most of our boys said they had no idea of the deep roots of Blacks in America. The struggles of our people came as a shock to some of them, especially the price our ancestors paid due to the evils of slavery.”

As for two of the boys under Duhart’s tutelage, they had much to say — but even more, they said, to see.

“We want to see the sculptures; we want to see the exhibits from the civil rights movement and the slave ship too — wow. We know there’s more to our story and contributions than President Obama, P. Diddy and George Washington Carver. That’s why we’re here,” said Gregg Spencer, 11 and Max Ndjikinya, 12, both from Northeast.

This year’s sponsors included: Pepco, SW Airlines, Comcast/Xfinity, Bank of America, Safeway, Toyota, THEARC, Boys and Girls Club at THEARC, Capital Entertainment Services and Coca-Cola.

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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